product research en-US My Budget Challenge 2016: How to Live Frugally When You Have No Time <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/my-budget-challenge-2016-how-to-live-frugally-when-you-have-no-time" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Woman learning to live frugally when she has no time" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>[Editor's Note: This is another episode in Max Wong's journey to find an extra $31,000 this year. Read the whole series </em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>here</em></a><em>.]</em></p> <p>One of the assumptions that my friends, who earn more money than me while still living paycheck to paycheck, make about my frugal habits is that they are too busy to actually make these lifestyle changes themselves.</p> <p>This total garbage assumption keeps so many people poor. Many of my friends insist that I have to be totally wasting my life scrimping all the time. This just isn't true. In fact, I have a lot more free time than any of my friends who argue that every financial tweak costs them too much of their precious time. With very few exceptions, I also have more savings. Here's how I keep a tight budget on a tight schedule.</p> <h2>I Don't Waste Time on Researching Things That Don't Matter</h2> <p>To quote Asiz Ansari: &quot;Every toothbrush I bought on a hunch has been fine. I've never been disappointed in a toothbrush. Why waste my time trying to find the best? Have you ever run into someone with no teeth and asked, 'What happened?' And they replied, 'Bought the wrong toothbrush. Should have done more research.'&quot;</p> <p>I spent an hour <a href="" target="_blank">researching a car part</a> for my Volvo. If I bought this part refurbished locally, it would have cost me $765. I found a brand-new, aftermarket version for $45 online that had stellar reviews. I saved $720 by spending one hour of my life exploring my options. I would not spend this amount of my time researching the shovel I just bought at my local hardware store for $70. I bought the shovel based entirely on the fact that there was just one model to choose from.</p> <p>Part of saving money is stripping away the marketing message that you need to buy the best of everything or suffer dire consequences.</p> <h2>I Focus on Saving Money on the Things I Already Do</h2> <p>There are so many money-saving activities out there that it's easy for me to screw up my schedule by trying to do them all. While I am always trying to level up on my savings game, when I am crushed for time, I focus on making the things I must do more financially sustainable.</p> <p>For example I have to weed my garden or risk the wrath of the Los Angeles Fire Department. Since many of the weeds in my garden are edible, I am saving money and time on growing vegetables by <a href="" target="_blank">eating my weeds</a>. If this sounds disgusting, please note that Chef Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken Magasinet, one of the world's most acclaimed restaurants, serves an entire menu of foraged foods. In fact, Nilsson would probably be distraught by the fact that I am composting probably delicious moss and pine resin. As much as I hate weeding, eating my plant enemies provides a primal and peculiar satisfaction, which makes all the kneeling in the dirt worthwhile.</p> <h2>I Keep an Aspirational Calendar for the Future</h2> <p>As much as I wanted to harvest the green walnuts that grow on wild trees around my neighborhood, I missed my window of opportunity. The nuts are already too mature to make the pickled walnut recipe I wanted to make for holiday gifts this year. Alas, I just didn't have the free time last month to work on my new hobby of preparing wildcrafted food.</p> <p>So, I am adding &quot;pick walnuts&quot; to my 2017 calendar. By adding reminders to make money-saving moves to my schedule a year in advance, I set myself up for ever-improving financial habits for the future. While I can never do all the aspirational projects I schedule for myself, just creating a plan in advance ensures that I can add at least one new skill to my life each year. I think of it as a wish list with a deadline.</p> <h2>I Get High-End Retail Service at a Low Cost</h2> <p>It does not take me more time to buy a shirt at a thrift store than it does for me to buy a shirt for full price at the mall. In fact, buying used is often quick business because my local thrift stores have customer wish lists. For example, the workers at my neighborhood consignment store know that I am constantly on the hunt for a specific <a href="" target="_blank">style of discontinued jeans</a>. Whenever a pair in my size shows up, I get a phone call, letting me know they have a pair of jeans on hold for me.</p> <p>People assume that low cost means poor service. Unlike a lot of retail workers, thrift store clerks often revel in the thrill of the hunt. They love finding the perfect thing, even for other people, so they end up acting like personal shoppers for their favorite customers.</p> <h2>The Off Season Is My Friend</h2> <p>When I lived in Florence, my Italian neighbors told me to wait until November, between tourist seasons, to buy clothes. Everything gets cheaper in November. Hotel and restaurants drop their prices and stores put merchandise on sale. Let me just say that the offseason in Florence is fantastic. The museums emptied out, the lines to my favorite gelato stores got short, and I could walk across the Ponte Vecchio without being part of some tourist's upskirt panty video. I see no point in ever returning to Florence during the high season.</p> <p>Even if I lived in Podunk, America and never traveled, I would take advantage of the easier access and the discounts on merchandise, entertainment, and education during Podunk's offseason.</p> <h2>I Buy and Make Gifts All Year Long</h2> <p>I start <a href="" target="_blank">planning for Christmas in January</a>, even though I personally don't celebrate a winter holiday. This extremely early jump on things gives me plenty of time to make handmade gifts and source inexpensive presents for every occasion for pennies.</p> <p>This last weekend I attended the baptism of a friend's baby. I used some of the $100 trade credit I got from a local consignment store to &quot;buy&quot; several sterling silver baby spoons. I gifted one of the spoons to the new kid, and stashed the rest in my silverware drawer where they quietly await future babies. I also bought a scrimshaw pin for my husband as a reward for his especially thrifty behavior this year. Total cost of these gifts: $0. (And I still have trade credit left over)!</p> <h2>Coupons Are for Crazy Cat Ladies</h2> <p>Okay, you know, I save enough on cat food and cat litter each year to buy a plane ticket to New York City. So all those people who don't want to see Hamilton on Broadway can just keep on buying Friskies at full price. Be my guest.</p> <p>Although there are some coupon queens who still get a thrill from dumpster diving for newspaper inserts, grocery stores make it so easy to get discounts now. Most big grocery chains even have phone apps that give a curated selection of coupons based on previous purchases. One of my store apps actually makes my phone beep when I pass a sale item on my list. Seriously, I just used a coupon to buy grass fed beef at Whole Foods for $5 a pound. Grass. Fed. Beef. Whole. Foods.</p> <p>One of my friends lives in DC where his favorite brand of Dennison's Chili is not available. I always send him a flat of cans for his birthday. It does not take me any additional time to buy that chili when it goes on sale, with a coupon, than it does when it's full price. And, even though my friend knows I always buy his chili at a discount, he doesn't enjoy his lunches any less.</p> <h2>I Batch Process My Errands</h2> <p>Mr. Spendypants is saving hundreds of dollars on gas this year by carpooling to work a few days a week. But I save money by carpooling even though I work from home! At least once a week, my awesome neighbor Patria picks me up in her car and we run errands together. Not only does this save me on gas, it turns trips to the post office, the bank, and the pharmacy into a nice afternoon with my friend. Patria started this good habit over a year ago when she realized that she's much more efficient with her errands when I'm in the car with her to keep her on schedule. She also saves money on gas because she's incentivized to batch process her errands.</p> <h2>I Work Less So I Have More Time</h2> <p>I have many friends who work insane hours so they can make enough money to <a href="" target="_blank">pay for the entourage</a>&hellip;that enables them to work insane hours. I have one friend who hates his job so much that I actually worry about him stroking out from stress. He and his wife both work full time to pay for the maid to clean their house, the gardener to do the yard work, and the full time nanny for their kid. Even though I ran the numbers for him, he still can't wrap his head around the idea that he could work fewer hours for less money at his dream job, and that would give him enough flexibility that he could take care of his own child, house, and yard, instead of paying outside help.</p> <p>The concept that working less can mean more money in the bank seems counterintuitive, but how much I spend is as important as how much I earn. If I spend all my money, it doesn't matter if I make $100 or $1,000,000. I will still have zero savings and possibly less free time.</p> <h2>Progress So Far</h2> <p>Alas, Mr. Spendypants threw a spanner into my already maxed-out schedule. He forgot to pay the yearly $30 bribe, ahem, fee to the fire department to avoid the brush clearance inspection. So we were inspected and given a warning. We have just a few days to trim every tree in our yard by 30%. Did I mention that we have 14 trees in our yard? If we miss the deadline for re-inspection, then we will be fined $356 and I will still have to trim every tree in our yard by 30%. So, instead of working for money, for the last two weeks I have been working a volunteer gig as an angry amateur arborist.</p> <p>If my blog posts stop abruptly, it means that I have fallen off a ladder to my death. Wish me luck.</p> <p>As my Mormon friend puts it, I did receive a few #tender mercies during the last pay period in the form of three tiny payments. I earned $9.45 from a book sale on, I sold $51.99 in clothing at a consignment store, and I got a whopping $31.13 as the payout for some random, class action lawsuit against Wells Fargo that I don't remember joining. (I haven't been a Wells Fargo customer in five years, so thank God I wasn't waiting around for that check to arrive).</p> <p>Since Mr. Spendypants and I were out of town for the baptism, he hasn't balanced his books yet. His savings and expenses for last month will be chronicled as part of my next post.</p> <p><strong>Goal:</strong> $31,000</p> <p><strong>Amount Raised:</strong> $19,998.41</p> <p><strong>Amount Spent:</strong> $10,653.66</p> <p><strong>Amount Left to Go:</strong> $21,747.82</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Max Wong</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">8 Frugal Living Skills I Wish My Parents Would Have Taught Me</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Things You Might Not Know About Your Local Thrift Store</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">10 Ways to Decorate Your Christmas Tree for Under $30</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">9 Smart Reasons to Last-Minute Holiday Shop</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">6 Ways to Use Google Alerts to Save Money</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Frugal Living calendars consignment coupons Holidays max wongs budget product research shopping thrift stores wasting time Fri, 22 Jul 2016 10:00:09 +0000 Max Wong 1753339 at Smart Shopping: Guide to Researching a Purchase <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/smart-shopping-guide-to-researching-a-purchase" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src=" shopping.jpg" alt="Girls with shopping cart" title="Time to Shop" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>So you're in the market for a new purchase and you want to make sure you buy the &quot;right one&quot;? You've come to the right place &mdash; whether you're looking for a new pair of shoes, a fancy laptop, or a new cell phone carrier, this guide will help you make the right decision. (See also:&nbsp;<a href="">Bargain Shopping 101</a>)</p> <p>It all boils down to a simple, two-step process: find the right fit, and get a killer deal.</p> <h2>Find the Right Fit</h2> <p>Finding the right fit means finding the right purchase for you. You can always search for &quot;top X products&quot; or &quot;best products for X,&quot; but none of it matters because what's good for everyone else isn't necessarily good for you.</p> <p>If we&rsquo;re talking about a camera, then what kind of camera are you looking for? Something to take pictures of cheetahs? Of panoramas? Of bats in the night?&nbsp;You need to do a little digging beyond just saying &ldquo;I want a camera because...because I want a camera.&rdquo;</p> <p>In order to figure out the reasons, you need to know what each product brings to the table. In the case of a tablet, are you an iOS person? Are you gonna watch movies? Will you use it only where you already have Wi-Fi? These answers will help you determine which model, brand, and version of a product you should watch out for. If it helps, break out your Excel skills to create an easy-to-read comparison.</p> <p>So how do you find the right fit? Start by asking the pros.</p> <h3>Find the Experts</h3> <p>Thanks to the Internet, this is fairly easy. If you have friends who know more about tablets, shoes, or whatever it is, then ask them first &mdash; a trusted opinion is worth its weight in gold. I see people using Facebook and Twitter very effectively to get this kind of feedback.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href="">Consumer Reports</a> is another great place to start, but I like getting a little more specific. For example, if I&rsquo;m looking into a tech product, I know that <a target="_blank" href="">CNET</a> and <a href="">Engadget</a> are the best places to get an in-depth review of a product's benefits and shortcomings.&nbsp;If I want to find the perfect book, then <a target="_blank" href="">Amazon</a> and <a target="_blank" href="">Goodreads</a> are the places to find it.&nbsp;Movies? <a target="_blank" href="">Rotten Tomatoes</a> and...<a target="_blank" href="">Amazon</a> again.</p> <h3>A Word About Amazon</h3> <p>Two of the reasons Amazon is so helpful are its scale and its technology. Because so many people use the site, you can get a good idea about how the rest of the world feels about a product.</p> <p>As for Amazon's technology, it&rsquo;s always intersting to see what other items people bought, viewed, or bought along with that product. The amount of data is fascinating but also valid enough to give you just the right amount of insight you need &mdash; finding what's right for you becomes infinitely easier.</p> <h2>Get the Killer Deal</h2> <p>Now that you know what you want to buy, it's time to talk money. And that means finding the right price.&nbsp;There are a few strategies you can use to get the best deal.</p> <h3>Patience Is a Virtue</h3> <p>Visit sites like <a target="_blank" href="">Fatwallet</a> and <a target="_blank" href="">Slickdeals</a> to benefit from professional dealseekers who are passionate about finding a deal. These people are deal savants, and if there&rsquo;s a way for you to buy something for $1.53 less, this is where to find it.</p> <p>If you're willing to hold out and wait until what you want goes on sale, this method will pay off...eventually.</p> <h3>Read the Cards</h3> <p>Check to see what kind of benefits your credit card offers. If you get cash back or points or some kind of bonus, make sure you factor that into the equation. One of my cards, for example, gives me 6% cash back at the grocery store. How does that help? Well, my local grocery store sells gift cards for just about anything &mdash; from Apple to Southwest Airlines.</p> <p>How does 6% off a flight to Vegas sound?</p> <p>Another card I own has certain cash back deals at specific merchants. So during specified times, I can get a certain percent off at those stores, too. If my timing is right, I can get a price no one else can.</p> <h3>Know the Code</h3> <p>If you aren't using <a target="_blank" href="">Retailmenot</a>, then get with the program. Before you check out, make sure you check them for any coupons or promotional codes. If nothing comes up, put Google to work for you and run a search for &quot;your product deal&quot; or &quot;online merchant promo code&quot; to exhaust all the possiblities.</p> <p>Most of the time, there's a way to knock a few dollars of the price.</p> <h2>Go Forth and Shop</h2> <p>If you have any great tools to either find the right product for you or get a discount on price, please share them in comments to make sure this guide remains as ultimate as it can be!</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Carlos Portocarrero</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-5"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">10 Holiday Stocking Stuffers for Techies</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Discount Designer Clothing: 17 Places to Get Name Brands for Less</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">The 5 Best Fabric Softeners</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Ultimate Gift Guide: Thoughtful Ideas for Every List and Every Budget</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">The 5 Best AAA Batteries</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Shopping bargain deals buying guide product research Wed, 28 Nov 2012 10:36:45 +0000 Carlos Portocarrero 955736 at